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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 March, 2004, 11:13 GMT
Tipton talks as ex-inmates fly home
By Peter Lane
BBC Midlands Today reporter in Tipton, West Midlands

Tipton is very quiet and if there are any preparations being made for a homecoming then they are certainly being made out of sight.

Notice from family
The families have asked the media to respect ther privacy

After two years being held by US authorities in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, three Tipton men - Shafiq Rasul, 26, Asif Iqbal, 22, and Ruhal Ahmed, 22 - arrived back in the UK to more questioning about their activities by police in London.

The three terraced houses where the three men grew up - and where their families still live - have a row of police bollards outside the front, stopping anyone from parking there.

There is also a note on the door saying: "Do not knock, we are not giving interviews, if you have inquiries please put them through our media manager".

All three families have asked a local man from the community to act on their behalf. He is not a PR expert, I am told.

They have been approached by all the national newspapers to sell their stories.

Local people's views of the men's return is not surprisingly split.

Some people say: "Great, get them home, it's all we ever wanted. They've never been charged with anything. It's unfair, they were just three innocent young men in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Then there are others who are asking: "What exactly happened here? Why were they picked up in Afghanistan?"


They have - in many people's minds here - got a lot to answer for over what they were doing there.

There are certain people in the community here who are suspicious, regardless of the legal process.

They may always be suspicious and the family are aware of that.

They have done nothing wrong, but they do have questions to answer about why they were picked up in Afghanistan
Khurshid Ahmed
I spoke to friends of the family who are concerned that, if and when their relatives come back to Tipton, they will always have a question mark hanging over them.

This is a very mixed multi-racial community.

There are some in the Muslim community who know them and who are rallying around them.

Ramesh Patel says he knew all three boys when they were growing up and they used to play football with his sons.

He is obviously someone who will say this is a miscarriage of justice and they are innocent.

Then there are others, like Khurshid Ahmed from the local Muslim Association, who says he is sure they have done nothing wrong, but they do have questions to answer about why they were picked up in Afghanistan.

Remaining inmates

Another Guantanamo detainee, Moazzam Begg, is also from the West Midlands, from Birmingham.

He is one of the remaining four British men who have not been freed.

The release of the Tipton Three has made it much harder for the Begg family.

Moazzam Begg
Moazzam Begg is one of four Britons still detained by the US
His father, Azmat Begg, takes the position he is happy some detainees have been freed, but it makes it more frustrating for him too.

His son is older than the Tipton Three and is married with young children.

But his son has had more serious allegations levelled against him than the other Britons on their way back.

He is consequently deemed by the US authorities to be a more serious suspect.

Like the families in Tipton they say they cannot understand how their son has got mixed up in this.

Azmat Begg will tell you: "I want my son to stand trial, let's get him back to Britain, if he has to face a court, then let him face a court."

The Begg family wants justice to be done, only they want it to be done in the UK.

Inevitable factors

The families of those on their way back have resolved themselves to the fact that the police will want to ask their relatives further questions.

They know that they cannot simply land and get on a train back to the West Midlands. But the line from the family is that everyone wants them to have the option of coming back to Tipton again - to try to pick up their lives when they left off.

One family friend said he thought the men would try to seek some kind of financial compensation for what has happened to them.

I want my son to stand trial, let's get him back to Britain, if he has to face a court, then let him face a court
Azmat Begg
He said they will prove their innocence and they will sell their story.

Their families say they will be able to lead a normal life, but it will take time.

Some people in the street said they thought the men would take a philosophical approach along the lines that today's news will be forgotten in the future.

But human nature dictates that some people will always think there is no smoke without fire.


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